The Man and the Birds
Editor’s Note: The origin and author of The Man and the Birds Christmas Story is unknown. The late Paul Harvey retold this story for decades on his Christmas radio broadcast. According to Mr. Harvey, "the story was originally published by United Press International by Louis Cassels, a longtime friend of mine and colleague. He and I tried for many years to trace the author of these words. We never could and it occurs to me that maybe some things are supposed to be written without credit to any particular individual ..." It is our hope that this powerful yet simple Christmas story will continue to be told for many years to come.
The man I’m going to tell you about was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe in all of that incarnation stuff that the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
He told his wife I’m truly sorry to distress you, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he would feel like a hypocrite and that he would much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then he went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.
Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another ... and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled outside miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. That is what had been making the sound.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures just lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter. All he would have to do is to direct the birds into the shelter.
Quickly, he put on a coat and galoshes and he tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light so the birds would know the way in. But the birds did not come in.
So, he figured that food would entice them. He hurried back to the house and fetched some bread crumbs. He sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail of bread crumbs to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs.
The birds continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them but could not. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction ... every direction except into the warm lighted barn.
And that’s when he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Any move he made tended to frighten them and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
He thought to himself, if only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm ... to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see ... and hear ... and understand.
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind.
He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
And he sank to his knees in the snow ...
For the 20 year anniversary of the Christmas Story Project, a contemporary adaptation of the classic story, The Man and the Birds, was written. Read it here:
The Professor and the Birds
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